The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) issues boat registration in WA and the State Parks and Recreation Commission creates a safe boating environment by enforcing boating laws and regulations within the state. Registration is required for all boats powered by motor or sail within 15 days of purchase or within 60 days of moving to the state. Continue reading the sections below to learn how to register a boat in Washington, how to renew a registration and find out who must have boater education to legally operate a watercraft in Washington State.

Requirements for Boater Registration in Washington

Unless exempt, all boaters are responsible for following Washington boat registration instructions and obtaining a proper registration before operating a boat on the state’s waters. The requirements to register a boat in Washington vary slightly according to how the boat was purchased. If your boat is new, you must provide a manufacturer’s statement of origin with your application.

If it is a used boat bought in Washington, provide a certificate of title issued in your name. A Washington boat registration form is required of all owners of motor- or sail-powered boats, and they must complete form TD-420-289, Vessel Title Application. All WA boat registration applicants must also show proof that sales tax on the boat was paid.

The requirements to register a boat purchased out-of-state include providing an out-of-state title and registration in your name. Once you have gathered what you need, submit the documents along with your fee payment in person at your local DOL vehicle/boat licensing office or mail them to any DOL office within the state.

Exemptions from Boat Registration and Titling in Washington

Common boat registration exemptions in Washington include a lengthy list of exempt vessels. Otherwise, here are some examples of which boats are exempt from registration in Washington:

  • Military vessels
  • Vessels owned by the U.S. government or a state, county or city government and used for government business only
  • Canoes, kayaks and other vessels that are strictly human powered, without any motor or sail
  • Vessels used exclusively for commercial fishing, listed with the WA Department of Revenue

Washington Boat Insurance

Like rates for auto insurance, rate for vessel insurance Washington are easily obtained online or by phone, although it is not a legal requirement to obtain boat insurance in the state. You may be required to research boat insurance quotes in Washington if you take out a loan to buy a boat, as the bank may need you to buy enough insurance to protect their interests.

Boat insurance programs in WA protect you from a devastating financial loss if you were to suffer an accident, fire or other loss of your vessel. Boat insurance companies in Washington provide policies for boaters even though the state does not mandate boat insurance coverage. Boaters generally find the expense of insurance well worth the peace of mind it provides.

Washington Boat Registration Fees

If you are wondering how much does it cost to register a boat in Washington, you will need to contact your local DOL office for a fee estimate. The WA DOL also provides an online estimator for boat registration fees in Washington that allows you to enter your registration number plus your last name or hull identification number (HIN) to obtain your current registration fees due. The actual cost is based on many factors, including the vessel’s weight, your county of residence and which surcharges apply.

Renewing Your Washington Boat Registration

If you are wondering how to renew your boat registration in Washington, first note that all registrations must be renewed annually and expire on June 30. This makes it easy to know when to renew a boat registration in WA and allows you to plan ahead to pay your fees on time.

Like the car registration renewal process, you can easily renew registration online through the DOL’s online portal, License eXpress. If you prefer to get your renewal at your local DOL office, you may bring your renewal reminder and a form of payment and renew in person.

Replacing Your Washington Boat Registration

You may be wondering how to replace your boat registration in Washington if you have discovered your registration card or decals are damaged or missing. You must replace registration documents as soon as possible, since it is illegal to operate a boat without having your registration card or registration decal onboard.

To obtain a boat registration replacement in Washington, complete the Affidavit of Loss/Release of Interest form and mark which type of loss you have. Submit your registration replacement request in person or mail it to any DOL office along with the replacement fee of $1.25 for registration cards and another $1.25 if you also need registration decals.

Boater Safety Courses in Washington

You are required to complete a boater safety education course in Washington if you plan on operating a boat with a 15-horsepower or greater motor and you were born after January 1, 1955, and you are 12 years of age or older. Even if you do not fit this criteria for a required Washington boating safety course, the State Parks and Recreation Commission encourages every boater to take an education course.

One of the easiest ways to take a boating safety course is to do so online. Having a boater safety education card after completing a boating safety education in Washington can not only help you be a better, safer boater, it can also result in lower boat insurance premiums.

Washington Boater License

 An online boating license or one obtained in another manner is not a requirement to operate a boat in Washington. The boater license actually takes the form of a boater education card awarded after successfully completing a boater safety course. The provides license-like privileges to operate a boat in Washington State and must be carried during the operation of the vehicle just like a standard WA driver’s license.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 12 2019.

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